Patriots Foil Scud Attacks On Israel, Saudi Arabia

Posted: January 24, 1991

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia — Iraq launched new Scud missile attacks at Saudi Arabia and Israel last night, but all the incoming Scuds were apparently destroyed by Patriot missiles, and there were no reports of casualties.

As the skies cleared after nearly four days of bad weather, U.S. and other allied warplanes took advantage of the parting clouds to batter Iraqi targets during more than 1,900 missions as the Persian Gulf war ended its first week.

The allied planes pounded the Iraqi port city of Basra - site of Iraq's military headquarters for the Kuwait theater - and the nearby Faw oil center, according to reports from the U.S. military and from Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Iranians said explosions could be heard in the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, 25 miles away. And witnesses said U.S. planes launched two major raids on Iraq from the Incirlik base in southern Turkey.

Bombing raids have demolished half of Iraq's oil-refining capacity, allied commanders said. Iraq announced that it was suspending gasoline sales.

The Patriot missile continued to have success knocking out incoming Scud missiles over Saudi Arabia, blasting five out of the sky late yesterday, Saudi sources told the Associated Press.

But witnesses told Reuters that one of the Scuds fired at the Saudi city of Dhahran last night came close to hitting a major allied air base.

The witnesses added that one Scud was blown up low over the runway and another one at a higher altitude over a different sector of the city.

About 275 miles away, residents in Riyadh also reported the apparent interception of a Scud, and Saudi sources told AP that a fifth Scud was destroyed near the northern desert city of Hafr al Batin.

The U.S. military confirmed the attacks on Dhahran and Riyadh, but said only that a third attack took place in "north-central Saudi Arabia." Hafr al Batin, in the north-central area, is home to Egyptian, Syrian and Kuwaiti forces that are part of the anti-Iraqi coalition.

In northern Israel, a Patriot intercepted and blew up another Scud only a day after an Iraqi missile slammed into a Tel Aviv neighborhood, causing three deaths and nearly 100 injuries. The Scud attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia yesterday took place about 11 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

On the ground, meanwhile, a U.S. Army armored infantry unit exchanged small-arms fire with an Iraqi patrol just inside Saudi Arabia. Two U.S. soldiers were slightly injured, and six Iraqi soldiers captured - the first time Iraqi ground troops have been taken as prisoners.

In southern Kuwait, dense black smoke continued to pour from burning oil fields, raising fears of an environmental catastrophe.

The U.S. military has said that Iraq set the fields ablaze to hamper allied military operations.

And Iran blamed the blazes for a greasy "black rain" that fell on its Bushehr province, 170 miles east of Kuwait.

The fires were expected to burn at least two weeks.

Also yesterday, Iraq said it had moved allied prisoners of war to strategic military targets in Iraq and occupied Kuwait. U.S. pilots, though, said they would continue their attacks.

And the Iraqis said allied bombers had destroyed a plant that makes baby formula, but angry U.S. officials said the infant formula operation was merely a facade for a heavily guarded biological weapons factory.

Cable News Network, which first carried the Iraqi claim, said later that its Baghdad correspondent, Peter Arnett, had not been able to either confirm or refute the assertion that the factory made baby food.

And Baghdad Radio said yesterday that the Iraqi death toll from allied air raids had risen to 139 - 39 soldiers and 100 civilians.

A Soviet trade official who left Baghdad Tuesday said yesterday that the allied air attacks had hit mainly industrial targets.

"We watched the bombs falling," Mikhail Predan, who arrived in neighboring Iran Tuesday night, told the Soviet news agency Tass. "I must say they were highly accurate and mainly on industrial targets."

The allied warplanes again yesterday were met with little ground or air resistance on their bombing runs.

No U.S. aircraft were lost to hostile fire yesterday, but one Marine AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during a training run, killing the pilot. An Army AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter also was lost in a non-combat accident; no one was injured.

Reports conflicted on whether Iraq's Scud missile launchers were being knocked out by the allies' bombing runs, which by yesterday had totaled 12,000 missions, including 6,000 combat sorties.

British Maj. Gen. Alex Harley said that Tuesday was "particularly successful" in the effort to destroy all of Iraq's Scud missile launchers. He also said that "virtually all the main Iraqi military airfields have been damaged, with reduced capacity" and the Iraqi air force disrupted.

But Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said the mobile Scud launchers were elusive targets. "Finding the right Scud launcher is a little bit like

finding one flatbed truck in all of Texas," he said.

Initial reports on Tuesday's attack on Tel Aviv said the Patriot missiles missed the incoming Scud. But yesterday, Brig. Gen. Uri Ram, commander of Israel's air defenses, said a Patriot struck the Iraqi missile but failed to blow up its warhead. Military officials were investigating the incident.

And in Washington, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said yesterday that Israeli soldiers - not Americans - fired the Patriots at the Scud on Tuesday night.

Comments by the Pentagon on Tuesday had indicated that the Patriots had been fired by U.S. personnel working with Israeli officers.

But Cheney said yesterday that an Israeli crew had fired its Patriot at the Scud because the U.S. Patriot batteries had a power problem with their generator at the time.

There are now several Patriot missile batteries in Israel, some operated by U.S. crews and others run by Israelis who were trained in the United States.

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